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Murder by the Sea by David Howard and Robin Jarossi – a review


Having spent part of my childhood living near the seaside town of Cromer I have always had a bit of a fascination with coastal places, especially the disconnect between the holiday sunny ideal and the reality of seasonal living. Therefore when I was asked to review a true crime book focusing on murders in seaside towns I jumped at the chance.

Murder by the Sea is a companion to the CBS Reality true crime documentary series of the same name, and features 10 of the series stories with extra material that couldn’t be in the show, including interviews with detectives and witnesses.

This was a fascinating book with 10 hideous crimes all set in British Seaside Towns. Some of the stories you may know, for example that of John Cooper who was portrayed in the TV drama series The Pembrokeshire Murders. There are also others that I hadn’t heard of such as Mathew Hardman who killed Mabel Leyshon in Anglsey, or Malcom Green who murdered Gleys Johnson and Clive Tully nearly twenty years apart.

Murder By The Sea gives an interesting insight into the crimes and both the murderers as well as the victims but it also paints a picture of the coastal towns that goes against the postcard pictures usually seen. I really enjoyed the way this book was written. Each of the ten stories are well researched and have enough details to keep you interested but equally each chapter is relatively short so it keeps you reading.

A must for fans of true crime and a good read whether or not you have seen the TV series.

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The Vacation by John Marrs – a review BLOG TOUR

John Marr’s is one of my favourite authors so I was delighted to be invited onto the blog tour for the newly repacked The Vacation (previously titled Welcome to Wherever You Are)

The Vacation is set in a back packers hostel on a Los Angeles beach. Eight strangers are all there but none of them are there just for a holiday. Each of them has their own reasons for trying to turn their back on their normal life, and each of them have secrets they want to keep hidden. Whether they are running from themselves or other people they hope that the hostel will be the solution, yet as the saying goes you can run but you can’t hide!

The Vacation is a real twisty read that I found very compelling. The chapters are short and there are lots of cliff hanger endings, all of which makes this hard to put down.

The book started relatively slowly as we are introduced to all of the main players but it soon starts to pick up pace. There are a lot of characters in this book but it is so well written that they are all easy to keep track of. They each have their own back story and as with all good books as the stories start to unwind the characters lives begin to merge.

I liked the way that all the stories were tied up properly at the end, some with endings I didn’t see coming and some with endings that were just heartbreaking. Throughout the book my views of each of the characters had kept changing and this continued right to the end.

I would recommend this great read for all fans of a twisty well written tale.

Find out what other bloggers on the tour thought by visiting the stop below:

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THEAKSTON OLD PECULIER CRIME NOVEL OF THE YEAR 2022 SHORTLIST REVEALED

So tomorrow is July, which mean’s it’s TOPCWF month, and what better way to celebrate than with the announcement of the the shortlist for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2022:

Presented by Harrogate International Festivals, the coveted award, now in its eighteenth year, celebrates crime fiction at its very best, with this year’s shortlist taking readers from newly independent India to the tension of a remote Fenlands cottage, from a nail-biting missing persons investigation in Manchester to the wilds of North Norfolk, and from the hedonism of Georgian London to the murky world of international espionage. Selected by the public from a longlist of eighteen novels, with a record number of votes being placed this year, the list of six novels features newcomers to the shortlist, two New Blood panellists, a previous Festival Programming Chair, and a five-time shortlistee. None of this year’s shortlistees have ever taken home the prize before, making the competition even more tense.

Elly Griffiths, who was the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Programming Chair in 2017, is shortlisted for the fifth time for The Night Hawks, the thirteenth instalment in her popular Ruth Galloway series. The Night Hawks sees Norfolk’s favourite forensic archaeologist Galloway called when a group of metal detectorists discover a body buried on a beach with Bronze Age treasure, a find which will lead to a series of murders seemingly linked to the local legend of a spectral dog whose appearance heralds death.

Sunday Times bestseller True Crime Story, the first standalone novel from Joseph Knox, blends fact and fiction to tell the gripping story of a 19-year-old university student who leaves a party in her student halls and is never seen again. Knox, who was selected by Val McDermid as a New Blood panellist in 2017, was longlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2018 for his thriller Sirens the following year, but has never previously reached the shortlist stage. 

Historical crime writer Laura Shepherd Robinson continues her incredible streak as her second novel Daughters of Nightis shortlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, two years after her debut Blood & Sugar was longlisted for the award in 2020. Robinson’s evocative novel transports readers to the seedy underworld of Georgian London, as Caroline ‘Caro’ Corsham tries to solve the murder of a prostitute in the infamous Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, an investigation which will delve into the darkest corners of high society.

Bestselling author Mick Herron is longlisted for Slough House, the tenth instalment in his series of the same name, which was recently adapted by Apple TV as spy drama Slow Horses, starring Gary Oldman and Kristin Scott Thomas. Herron will be hoping to take home the prize this year, with 2022 marking the fifth time in the past six years he has secured a place on the shortlist.

Midnight at Malabar House by Vaseem Khan, the first in a new series chronicling the investigations of India’s first female police detective, marks Khan’s first time reaching the shortlist. The novel introduces readers to Inspector Persis Wadia as she is plucked from obscurity in a basement office and tasked with solving the murder of an English diplomat as the country prepares to become the world’s biggest republic.

Finally, The Last Thing to Burn sees bestselling author and New Blood 2018 panellist Will Dean move away from the Nordic setting of his acclaimed Tuva Moodyson series in favour of a claustrophobic thriller set on the British fenlands. The Last Thing to Burn, which has secured Dean his first ever placement on the shortlist, sees a woman held captive in a remote cottage by a man who calls her Jane and insists she is his wife. She has long abandoned hopes of escape, until she finds a reason to live and finds herself watching and planning, waiting for the right moment to act. 

The six novels shortlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year 2022 are:

·       The Night Hawks by Elly Griffiths (Quercus Fiction)

·       True Crime Story by Joseph Knox (Doubleday)

·       Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd Robinson (Mantle/Pan)

·       Slough House by Mick Herron (Baskerville)

·       Midnight at Malabar House by Vaseem Khan (Hodder & Stoughton)

·       The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean (Hodder & Stoughton)

Simon Theakston, Executive Director of Theakston, added“What a fantastic shortlist, six thrilling tales which deliver shocking twists and unforgettable characters! We raise a glass of Theakston Old Peculier to all of the shortlistees and look forward to revealing the winner in July as we kick off the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.”

Sharon Canavar, Chief Executive of Harrogate International Festivals, commented: “We are delighted to announce this year’s Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year shortlist, featuring six novels by some of the most exciting crime writers working today. Whisking readers around the world and through time, this shortlist is a fantastic demonstration of the variety to be found in crime fiction. The public have a tough task ahead choosing just one winner and we can’t wait to see who they vote for!”

The public are now invited to vote for a winner at www.harrogatetheakstoncrimeaward.com. Voting closes on Friday 8th July, with the winner to be revealed on the opening night of Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Thursday 21st July. The winner will receive a £3,000 prize, as well as a handmade, engraved beer barrel provided by T&R Theakston Ltd.

The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year is run by Harrogate International Festivals sponsored by T&R Theakston Ltd, in partnership with Waterstones and the Express, and is open to full length crime novels published in paperback 1 May 2021 to 30 April 2022 by UK and Irish authors.

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Mr Jones by Alex Woolf – a review

When this book dropped through my door courtesy of Indie Novella it was definitely intriguing. The cover being a suited and booted man with a panda head.

Mr Jones begins with Ben and his daughter on their way to school. It’s ten months since the sudden disappearance of Ben’s wife and he’s still struggling to come to terms with it whilst parenting his eight year old daughter Imogen. When he finds a strange young girl who appears to be living on her own in a derelict house it is the start of a descent into a weird and scary place. Ben starts to hear odd noises in the house, and Imogen begins to receive messages from her mother.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. Originally I’d just left it on the shelf but the cover kept calling me so I gave it a go, which I’m very glad I did. As all my regular readers of the blog will know (Hi Mr T and the Sister – don’t think I’ve missed anyone!) I’m not a fan of the supernatural and don’t usually like a supernatural ending. However this book was absolutely superb and without giving too much away personally the ending can be interpreted in different ways. Supernatural or human breakdown? I confess that for the first couple of pages I wasn’t immediately gripped but a chapter in and I was hooked.

The story focuses on Ben who is struggling to cope after his wife goes missing. He is a really interesting character that I felt huge sympathy for, yet at the same time I was frustrated by some of his actions. His interactions with the other parents sometimes took turns that made me want to shout no at the page, but his relationship with his daughter was one of love yet desperation.

As I’ve said it’s difficult to review without giving too much away. One of the elements I really liked was the ambiguity around both the story and the characters. There was a real sense of menace coming off the page at points and the ending was equally thrilling and frustrating in equal measure.
I would definitely recommend Mr Jones if you want a gripping yet unsettling story.

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